Jennifer Baldy was 25 weeks pregnant with her second child when she started to experience a leaking sensation. A registered nurse, Baldy became worried when the discharge turned pink. On Dec. 19, 2018, she decided to see her doctor to make sure everything was OK.
Lela Jochim was 21 weeks pregnant with her second child when she began to experience the same thing—on the same day. Jochim, also a registered nurse, decided to get checked out, too.
On Dec. 22, both women found out the same devastating news: their membranes had ruptured early, a development that put them and their unborn babies at serious risk.
The diagnosis turned the world upside-down for Baldy and Jochim. They were transported to The Birthplace at University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital—where they were admitted to the antepartum care unit.
“The antepartum care unit is for women who experience complications during pregnancy that require hospital-based care, including preterm labor, preeclampsia, diabetes, fetal growth restriction and preterm premature rupture of membranes (PPROM), which was the complication both Jennifer and Lela experienced,” said Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialist Yasuko Yamamura, MD. Yamamura cared for both women during their hospitalizations.
The antepartum care unit team includes physicians, nurses, social workers, perinatal mental health professionals, and chaplain services, Yamamura said. The program also benefits from high-quality mobile imaging services and easy access to the hospital’s Level IV NICU.
PPROM can result in preterm labor, and increases the risk of infections and fetal death. At only 25 and 21 weeks of pregnancy, Baldy and Jochim faced long, uphill battles. Because of their high-risk complications, they would be required to stay in the hospital for the remainder of their pregnancies. The unit would become Baldy and Jochim’s home for the next nine and 12 weeks, respectively.
Fortunately, Baldy and Jochim found an extra layer of support—from each other. The two women met shortly after admission. When they found out how much they had in common, they began to form a bond.
“Jen and I met early on, and we became such good friends,” Jochim said. “We developed a daily routine that helped keep us from going stir-crazy.”
The women would start the day with coffee in one of their rooms. Between the daily scans, monitoring and rounding by the care team, Baldy and Jochim would take walks, have lunch together in the cafeteria and attend events in the Family Resource Center at University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital.
“We did a lot of the events at the Family Resource Center each week. There was a spa day, where we got massages and our hair done, and there was family coffee hour. There were lots of crafts to do as well. It made such a difference to have a place where our sons could come and visit us.”
Day-to-day life on the antepartum unit was monotonous, punctuated with some stressful, scary moments. “Unless you’ve been through it, you have no idea what it is like,” Jochim said.
The antepartum nurses are sensitive to the challenging situation their patients find themselves in, and combine clinical excellence with empathy to help them cope.
“Our nurses are amazing,” Yamamura said. “They really understand the unique needs of our patients, who are dealing with an unexpected pregnancy complication and don’t know what the outcome will be.”
Baldy and Jochim agree. “The antepartum care was excellent. The nurses were wonderful—not just caring, but warm and friendly as well,” Baldy said. “After that much time in the hospital, they began to feel like good friends, too. The doctors were also phenomenal. They listened to our concerns and made sure we were informed.
“The first day, I was terrified. But then each day got better, as one more day went by, and I didn’t go into labor. I trusted the doctors’ care,” Baldy said. “The friendships kept us busy. We supported each other, and it made the time go so much faster. Each week we made it—each milestone was a reason to celebrate.”
Despite the odds, both women made it to 34 weeks of pregnancy. When Baldy went into labor, Jochim was by her side.On February 21, Baldy’s daughter, Savannah, was born, weighing in at 5 pounds, 14 ounces. On March 15, Jochim delivered her daughter, Vivienne, who weighed 5 pounds, 5 ounces. The two women, who live less than 15 minutes away from each other and have sons the same age as well, look forward to continuing their friendship outside the hospital.